Republicans Believe The Darndest Things

The Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of self-identified Republicans which I mentioned yesterday is now officially out. Among the low-lights, a plurality believe Obama should be impeached. A majority believe Obama is a socialist, gays should not be allowed to teach or receive government benefits, oppose teaching sex-education in the public schools, believe schools should teach “that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world,” and that abortion is murder. There are also significant numbers who either believe or are unsure about a number of other absurdities.

The Imaginary Obama Back Door Tax On The Middle Class

In case you are wondering why the link to the current top story on Memeorandum is not working, it is because Reuters took it down for being incorrect.

I think it was a simple misunderstanding. A Reuters reporter saw the description of taxes but missed the part where they only apply those making over $250,000 per year. The error was pointed out and they retracted the story.

Pretty simple, but I’ve already seen people on the right as well as some die hard Clintonistas also alleging there was something shady about the story being pulled. For Obama-haters a story that Obama is hitting the middle class with “back door” tax increases is too compelling to give up on, even if not true.

Unfortunately Drudge and the usual right wing suspects have been making a lot of  noise about the imaginary back door tax increases on the middle class all day. My bet is that they will continue to talk about this, even though it is untrue. On the other hand, they will ignore the fact that Obama’s stimulus plan  proposed the largest tax cut for the middle class ever. Even The Wall Street Journal described Obama’s proposed tax cuts as being larger than George W. Bush’s cuts. The health care reform which they oppose would save them even more money.

Random Thoughts (Today’s Facebook Status Updates)

Old conventional wisdom from the right: “Everything was Clinton’s fault.” New conventional wisdom from the right: “Everything is Obama’s fault.” As for Bush, ignore the crashed economy and “We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”

Every authoritarian movement has its propaganda organ. Orwell had the Ministry of Information. The USSR had Pravda. The Republican Party has Fox News.

Republicans once again try to blame Democrats for problems they created. New right wing talking point is that 2011 budget shows Obama is a bigger spender than Bush. They ignore the facts that Obama’s budget is honest while Bush fought two wars off the books, has to pay for unfunded programs started by Bush,has to pay t…he interest on Bush’s deficit, and has to cope with the Bush recession.

Science Funding Increased in 2011 Budget

Barack Obama’s proposed freeze on discretionary spending would be better described as a cap than a freeze. I suspect they are using the term “freeze” because it is more easily understood.  A cap would be a better description as instead of freezing each item in the budget subjected to the freeze there is a total cap on such expenditures. Within this limit money can  be shifted from one department to another. Increases in one area are offset by decreases elsewhere.

This means that despite a freeze there will be winners and losers. Overall spending on science is being improved. Science Insider has described some of the increases in the proposed 2011 budget:

  • A $1 billion increase, to $32.1 billion, for the National Institutes of Health. That 3%-plus boost is aimed at keeping NIH on pace with inflationary costs for doing biomedical research.
  • A $550 million boost, to $7.4 billion, for the National Science Foundation. Almost all of that 8% increase would go to NSF’s six research directorates, with a special emphasis on clean energy and sustainability. Its education and training programs would rise by 2%.
  • A $226 million hike, to $5.1 billion, for the Office of Science within the Department of Energy (DOE). The department’s 3-year-old effort to jump-start a low-carbon economy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, would get $300 million as its first annual budget. A scaled-down education and training initiative, RE-ENERGYSE, would get $74 million, after Congress rejected a much larger program proposed last year.
  • A $540 million boost, to $5 billion, for science programs within NASA. The increase comes as part of the Administration’s proposed reshuffling of priorities on human space exploration. That plan includes a heavy-lift rocket for exploration beyond the moon and the commercial sector taking on responsibility for getting astronauts to the low-Earth-orbit international space station.
  • A $164 million jump, to $429 million, in the competitively awarded research programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • A $67 million increase, to $587 million, for the basic science programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Differing Views Of The Economy

If you read the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal it is all gloom and doom about how Obama is wrecking the country. The news pages give a different story, beginning with the first article currently present on the web site:

In two fresh indications of a strengthening U.S. economy, a new survey showed that banks have stopped making it tougher for consumers and businesses to borrow, and manufacturing activity climbed to its highest levels in five years.

Monday’s manufacturing report, from the Institute for Supply Management, cheered the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 118.20 points, or 1.17% to 10185.53.

Posted in Economy. 3 Comments »

Getting Health Care Done Right

I might not agree with Megan McArdle’s views on health care reform, but she has a better grasp of the politics than supporters of health care reform who think that we should just ram through an unpopular bill and everything will be all right:

Who are you more likely to leave:  the spouse who makes a pass at another woman, and then thinks the better of it, or the spouse who goes through with it?  Maybe you’ll leave them either way.  But it does not follow that they are better off going through with it.  I don’t think it is actually true that trying to pass a bill people hate, and then thinking the better of it because it turns out the electorate hates it, is no different from trying to pass a bill people hate, finding out that they really, really hate it, and then ignoring them and pushing it through anyway.

Moreover, I am sort of amazed that anyone does think this.  The Republicans suffered a crushing electoral defeat after failing to pass Social Security reform.  But raise your hand if you think that their electoral prospects would have been better in 2006 had they managed to ram through a bill that was polling in the mid thirties?  Okay, Karl, put your hand down.  The rest of us realize that no matter how bad 2006 was, it could have been worse.  And would have been, had the AARP been stalking the GOP with murder in its heart…

There is nothing good you can say about an actual bill that you couldn’t say about a bill that you voted for, but didn’t pass.  It’s true that this is going to make campaigns hard next fall.  But at least now Democrats can say that they thought the better of it.  What’s their excuse if they pass it?

It’s true that if it fails, it will be subject to “lengthy, painful postmortem coverage detailing its flaws and mistakes”.  But you know who reads such coverage?  Me and Jonathan Chait, and we already have pretty strong opinions. If it passes, it will also be subject to lengthy, painful postmortem coverage in the nation’s “Your Money” columns.  As a veteran of reading those columns, I am pretty sure they are going to focus heavily on the fact that starting in 2014, you will be required to buy health insurance, or pay a hefty fine to the IRS.  It will also mention the subsidies, and so forth.  But the very unpopular mandate is going to loom large, because that is, for the sort of people who read “Your Money” columns, one of the most crucial pieces of information.

Passing a bill which is this unpopular can be political suicide. That does not mean that health care reform should be forgotten. It remains necessary. This does mean that Democrats have to do more than just ram it through and delude themselves into thinking that the voters will suddenly be happy about a measure years before they can see most of the actual benefits, and years before they can see that most of the claims about the bill coming from the right are false.

Democrats need to do a couple of things. They need to fix the bill. This includes paying attention to the argument above and removing the individual mandate. There are plenty of other solutions to the free-rider problem besides relying on a mandate which is causing objections to the bill from elements on both the left and the right.

Polls which show opposition to the bill actually show that about half of the opposition comes from those on the left who believe the bill does not go far enough, with these people often objecting to a mandate to purchase insurance from private insurance companies. Despite the claims from the right, the overall health care plan is a fairly moderate proposal. It is easier to overcome objections from the left (as well as the right) to such  incremental reform if people see this as a voluntary measure for those who desire assistance as opposed to something they are forced to participate in.

Secondly, the Democrats need to sell the proposal to the American people. While it is often difficult to get past the right wing noise machine, this is not impossible considering that polling also shows that most Americans have little understanding of what is in the bill, but wind up supporting each of the provisions once they are explained. Support for health care reform increased after Obama spoke on the topic last summer. He needs to continue to do this until the truth gets through.